The Methodology of Applied Ethics

Mini-Workshop kindly funded by Philosophy Unit at KTH

Venue: Seminar Room 231, 2nd floor, Teknikringen 78B, KTH, Stockholm

Time: February 5th, 2013

The seminar is open for all but pre-registration is required. Please book your place by contacting Till Grüne-Yanoff

13.15-14.30 Adrian Walsh: Does The Non-Identity Problem justify Constraints on the use of Thought Experiments?

According to the non-identity problem, determining whether or not a harm has been done to a particular person must be constrained by considerations of whether less harmful alternative courses of action would have led to that person existing. ParfittÕs description of the problem begins with the assertion that which future people will exist is dependent (at least in part) on when exactly the procreation takes place. Parfitt claims that in assessing the relative harm of the circumstances of any birth, one cannot compare them with other scenarios involving alternative policies and actions in which one would not have been born at all. Much of the subsequent discussion of this problem has focussed on the question of what the proper object of moral concern might be. Should it be states of affairs or individual persons?
However, there is another significant feature of this line of reasoning that such discussions ignore; namely regarding the set of admissible scenarios for moral assessment. The debate assumes that modal harmsŃthat is, counterfactual harms that are either nomically impossible or practically infeasible in the circumstancesŃare not relevant to assessment of individual welfare. This I will refer to as the Ōnomic constraintÕ. While Parfitt directs our attention away from worries about individual welfare, in this paper the critical focus will be on the assumptions that drive the move away from individual welfare.
The distinctive feature of the approach developed herein, then, is that it treats the non-identity problem as, amongst other things, a constraint upon the relevant thought experiments and imaginary scenarios one might employ. I suggest that reconsidering the non-identity problem in terms of the limits it places on what counterfactuals are relevant, sheds fresh light on the issue of our obligations to future people as well as understanding of the proper role of thought experiments in our moral reasoning.

14.30-15.30 Karim Jebari: Convergence Seminars as a tool of applied ethics

We present a novel procedure to engage the public in ethical deliberations on the potential impacts of brain machine interface technology. We call this procedure a Convergence seminar, a form of scenario-based group discussion that is founded on the idea of hypothetical retrospection. The theoretical background of this procedure and the results of five seminars are presented.

15.30-16.00 Coffee

16.00-17.00 Payam Moula: Evaluating ethical tools in applied ethics

I will present my research which is about how to evaluate ethical tools in applied ethics. Ethical tools are methods or frameworks used to improve ethical deliberation and/or decision-making. There are a number of different ethical tools used partly for different purposes. For example some are focused on helping public organs reach ethical decisions and other are focused on public participation. I investigate previous accounts of how to evaluate tools and thereafter present my own account on doing this. Mainly my account divides different tools according to their purpose and thereafter i present different quality criteria which are properties i think the toopls ought to have in order to be considered good.

17.00 - 18.15 Sven Ove Hansson: Economic decision rules as applied ethics

Economic decision rules such as cost-benefit maximization and Pareto optimality are often described as purely instrumental rules. But are they devoid of moral contents? In this contribution I argue that they are fundamentally moral in character, although they are usually not presented as such. This should have impact on how they are used as decision aids.

18.30 Dinner